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Joe Manchin stuns Joe Biden, Democrats in last-minute rejection of Build Back Better bill


She pointedly said that Manchin, whose state is among the nation’s poorest, “will have to explain” why many families will have to cope with higher health and child care costs the bill is intended to address.

Psaki said in a statement that Manchin had “in person” given Biden a written proposal last Tuesday that was “the same size and scope” of a framework for the bill that Democrats rallied behind in October, and agreed he would continue talks. That framework had a 10-year cost of $US1.85 trillion.

Officials hadn’t previously disclosed that Tuesday meeting.

Demonstrators, asking congress to pass President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, block Pennsylvania Avenue during rush hour outside on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 7.

Demonstrators, asking congress to pass President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, block Pennsylvania Avenue during rush hour outside on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 7. Credit:AP

“We will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honour his prior commitments and be true to his word,” Psaki said.

A Manchin aide gave the White House about a 20-minute notice before the senator announced his position on national television, said a person familiar with the senator’s actions who described them only on condition of anonymity.

The legislation’s collapse would deepen bitter ideological divisions between progressive and moderate Democrats. That would imperil the party’s ability to get behind any substantial legislation before the November congressional elections, when their control of Congress seems in doubt.

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And it would add a note of chaos just as Democrats need to demonstrate accomplishments and show a united front to voters.

Manchin’s declaration was a stunning repudiation of Biden’s and his party’s top goal, and its delivery — a last-minute heads up from a staffer — seemed little short of a slap in the face to Biden.

A rejection of the legislation has been seen by many as unthinkable because of the political damage it could inflict on Democrats.

It is rare for a member of a president’s own party to administer a fatal blow to their paramount legislative objective. Manchin’s decision called to mind the famous thumbs-down vote by Senator John McCain that killed President Donald Trump’s 2017 effort to repeal the health care law enacted under President Barack Obama.

Manchin’s comments, as Congress was on a holiday recess, drew fury from Democratic colleagues he already has enraged and frustrated for months. Other problems have arisen, caused by another moderate Democrat, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and bickering between progressives and centrists, but none has approached the magnitude of Manchin’s stands.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders said in a written statement that if Manchin wants to oppose the legislation, “He should have the opportunity to do so with a floor vote as soon as the Senate returns.”

“He should have to explain to West Virginians and the American people why he doesn’t have the courage to stand up to powerful special interest…”

Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, a leader of House progressives, said Manchin can no longer say “he is a man of his word”.

US Senator Bernie Sanders says Joe Manchin is afraid of standing up to special interests.

US Senator Bernie Sanders says Joe Manchin is afraid of standing up to special interests.Credit:AP

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said it would be “extremely disappointing” to abandon top priorities but that a package helping families, containing health care costs and creating clean energy jobs “would go a long way toward addressing our challenges.”

Representative Suzan DelBene reiterated moderates’ desire to see the bill refocused on fewer programs. “Failure is not an option,” she said.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, had spent weeks trying to turn Manchin against the bill by saying it was too expensive. “I very much appreciate” Manchin’s opposition, Graham said.

Manchin said he was opposing the 10-year, roughly $US2 trillion bill because of his concerns about inflation, growing federal debt and a need to focus on the omicron COVID-19 variant.

He accused Democrats in a written statement later of trying to “dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face,” seemingly delineating an ideological gap between himself and his party.

He also wants the bill’s initiatives to last the measure’s full 10-year duration. Democrats made many of them temporary to limit the bill’s cost, which Manchin says is misleading.

The bill’s extension of enhanced child tax credit benefits, including monthly checks to millions of families, would only be extended one year.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected the credit’s full 10-year cost at $1.6 trillion, nearly the size of the entire package Manchin says he’d accept.

To fit, any compromise would likely have to reduce the tax credit’s benefits and deeply cut many other proposals.

Democrats dismiss Manchin’s assertions that the bill would fuel inflation and worsen budget deficits.

They say its annual spending would be a tiny percentage of the country’s $23 trillion economy and have little impact on prices. Its job training, education and other initiatives would spur economic growth and curb inflation long-term, they say.

Bloomberg, AP



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